The world has been having some nasty weather over the past couple of decades, according to a new report.
According to the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, 90 percent of global disasters from 1995 to 2015 were weather-related, including floods, storms, heat waves, extreme cold and droughts. Those events have claimed an average of 30,000 lives per year and left 205 million people homeless annually. Such catastrophes cause between $250 billion and $300 billion in economic losses, the agency estimated.
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"Weather and climate are major drivers of disaster risk and this report demonstrates that the world is paying a high price in lives lost," said Ms. Margareta Wahlström, head of UNISDR, in a press release. "Economic losses are a major development challenge for many least developed countries battling climate change and poverty," she continued.
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The most common weather-related disaster worldwide was flooding, which accounted for 47 percent of the total. Almost all of the 115 million people annually affected by floods live in Asia, with its vast land mass, low-lying coastal areas and large number of river basins and flood plains.
Most likely to kill though, were storms such as hurricanes, which took more than 12,000 lives annually. Nearly 90 percent of those deaths occurred in impoverished countries, even though they only accounted for about a quarter of the storms.
Perhaps the most worrisome takeaway in the report is that the number of weather-related disasters has increased dramatically. The annual average of 335 between 2005 and 2014 was 14 percent higher than 1995-2004, and almost twice the number recorded in 1985-1994.
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While scientists can't determine how many of those disasters are due to climate change, the report noted that "predictions of more extreme weather in future almost certainly mean that we will witness a continued upward trend in weather-related disasters in the decades ahead."
And unfortunately, the toll of deaths, homelessness and economic damage from weather-related disasters also is on a trajectory to increase. "Population growth will continue to put more and more people in harm's way, while uncontrolled building on flood plains and storm-prone coastal zones will increase human vulnerabilities to extreme weather events," the report noted.
To stave off all that suffering, the report recommended a number of measures, including better flood control strategies for the world's poorest communities. " Effective low-cost solutions exist, including afforestation, reforestation, floodplain zoning, embankments, better warnings and restoration of wetlands," the UN researchers wrote.